Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Meet the Brewers #13: Ted Savage

A programming note: I figured that I should compile the "Meet the Brewers" features in one place, so I've linked them on a page at the top. That way, I can go back and re-read them at my leisure in case that becomes something I want to do.

But, it's been a little while since we met a Brewer, so let's meet an interesting one.  This next player is Ted Savage.  Savage pinch hit in the bottom of the fifth inning in place of pitcher George Lauzerique, becoming the thirteenth player used in the game.  He popped out to third. 

1970 McDonald's Milwaukee Brewers
Savage probably would have started Opening Day in Milwaukee had he been healthy -- and, perhaps, had he not just joined the team on the day before Opening Day.  But, as his SABR Biography notes, he suffered from leg injuries all April which limited his appearances during that month.

But who is Ted Savage? He was born in Venice, Illinois, and grew up in East St. Louis, Illinois. From there, he went to college at Lincoln University before joining the army.  After his discharge in 1958, he finished up his degree.  He signed with Philadelphia in 1960 and tore it up at Triple-A Buffalo in 1961 -- .325/.427/.525 with 24 HRs and 31 SBs.  

The problem for Savage, though, is that he was with the racist Philadelphia Phillies.  Back when I had time to write more, I talked about how racist the Phillies were in the 1960s and early 1970s when discussing Larry Hisle and his criticism of the Phillies organization.  Savage did fairly well for a 25-year-old in 1962 -- .266/.345/.373, OPS+ of 96 -- but the Phillies decided to trade him to Pittsburgh for the 35-year-old Don Hoak, who was coming off a year of .241/.320/.350.  Savage wasn't alone in getting shipped out young -- it happened to Hisle, Grant Jackson, Richie Allen, and future Hall of Famer Ferguson Jenkins too.  

Sorry for the crappy scan
1971 Topps
The problem for Savage doubled when going to Pittsburgh, but there is was a playing time issue. Why would anyone play Savage ahead of Roberto Clemente, Bill Virdon, Bob Skinner, Manny Mota, Donn Clendenon, or Willie Stargell?  

In any event, Savage was traded or sold multiple times in the mid- and late-1960s.  In 1964, it was to the Cardinals in a trade.  Then, in 1967, the Cubs bought his contract.  In 1968, the Cubs traded Savage to the Dodgers for Jim Hickman and Phil Regan.  In 1969, he was sent to Cincinnati in a minor trade.  Then, in April 1970, Savage was sold to Milwaukee.

Getting decent, regular playing time in Milwaukee led to Savage's best season in the majors.  In 343 plate appearances, he hit 12 HRs, stole 6 bases, walked 57 times while striking out just 44 times, leading to a slash line of .279/.402/.482 and an OPS+ of 144.  Not too shabby.

Unfortunately, at the age of 34, Savage was merely an asset to help build a team.  The Brewers were pretty bad, after all, so they were looking to put together a younger core for the team to let it develop together.  It only took 7 more years for a winning season, so you can tell these early efforts did not bear fruit.  But these efforts led to Savage being traded yet again -- this time for the final time -- to the Kansas City Royals.

1994 Miller Commemorative Milwaukee Brewers
The 1971 season was Savage's last as a major leaguer. However, as is sometimes the case, his influence was far greater after his retirement.  During his time playing in the majors, Savage worked as a substitute teacher around St. Louis.  He eventually earned his Ph.D. in urban studies from St. Louis University and served for nine years as the athletic director at Harris-Stowe State University, an HBCU in St. Louis.

Then, in 1987, the St. Louis Cardinals hired Savage as a director for target marketing in the Cardinals Care and community relations department. Savage finally retired from that position in 2012.  In that role, he became the namesake of the Cardinals Care Golf Classic fundraiser and made many appearances for the Cards -- whether that meant talking to St. Louis news station KSDK about Jackie Robinson's debut or appearing with film stars and Hall of Famers to talk about their mutual love for baseball:

From left to right, that's Ozzie Smith, Kevin Costner, and Ted Savage.

In other words, Savage has impacted literally thousands of lives in a positive manner despite never getting a truly fair shake in terms of playing time during his career.  

Savage has two major release cards -- I don't have his O-Pee-Chee card from 1971.  He appears otherwise on the 1970 Mike Andersen Postcards (perhaps as a Cincinnati Red), the McDonald's set above, and the 1970 Brewers Picture Pack in 1970.  In 1971, he's on Topps and OPC, but due to his good stats, he also appears in the Dell Today's Team Stamps, Topps Coins, Topps Super, and Topps Tattoos.  I don't think I have anything other than the three cards I've shown here.

1 comment:

  1. You always wonder how guys would be if they played in a different era. Judging by Savage's numbers it seems like today's baseball would like his skillset much better. Plus you can take out the Philly racism too....